2010 FIBA Worlds: Day 6 Analysis (Serbia-Argentina, Russia-Greece) + Playoff Overview
GROUP A: Serbia 84, Argentina 82
In the most significant game of Day 6, Serbia slipped past Argentina to win Group A in a tightly contested game throughout that was probably the best-played game of the first round. Guys made plays throughout the contest.
The 4th quarter turned into a mano-a-mano battle of Luis Scola and Nenad Krstic, in which both guys created offense in the post or drew fouls. In the 4th, Nenad scored 12 of his 18 pts and Scola scored 10 of his 32 pts.
Not sure I've seen Nenad Krstic more aggressive on the offensive end then he was today, particularly in the 4th. He was matching Scola's physicality, dishing out contact of his own. Nenad was strong down low, either kicking the ball out when doubled, drawing fouls or scoring. In the 4th, he hit a pair of turnaround jumpers and converted a big bucket over Delfino when Carlos got mismatched on him to give Serbia a 77-75 lead with just under a minute to play. Also, Krstic did a terrific job helping on the backline on D.
Milos Teodosic showed off his quick release a few times from the perimeter and hit a few runners in the lane as well. So good at using screens to get his shot off or finding his teammates moving to the open spots. Milos helped the cause with 16 pts (7-of-13), 4 assts, 4 rebs & 3 stls.
Give some props to Novica Velickovic and Ivan Paunic for helping Serbia's cause. Paunic hounded Pablo Prigioni in the 2nd half, making it difficult for Argentina to execute its offense on occasion. Velickovic might have had some issues guarding Scola (but who doesn't), but he was quality as a help defender as usual. Novica also chipped in with 7 pts & 6 rebs.
Alexander Rasic and Dusan Savanovic have seen more floor time than expected in this tourney and both stepped up big vs. Argentina.
Rasic has taken advantage of his increased minutes by drilling his perimeter shots. Rasic is currently the 2nd-best 3pt. shooter in the tourney at 60%. Rasic hit two big 3-pointers in a key stretch in the 3rd and made four FTs in the last 10 seconds to seal the win.
Savanovic hit a couple mid-rangers and buried two clutch 3-pointers in the 4th including one to break a 77-77 tie with 20 secs left. Dusan piled up 19 pts (8-of-14), 5 rebs, 2 stls & what we believe may be the first Sam Cassell Dance in FIBA history, well-deserved after his tie-breaking shot. Savanovic has scored double-figures in 4 of 5 games and leads Serbia in scoring with 12.6 ppg.
Thought Serbia did a great job taking advantage of early-offense opportunities. You would rarely see this last year, as they wanted to grind the game out in the 60s.
The combination of Serbia's size advantage and the absence of Fab Oberto led to a +11 rebound margin for the Serbs. Serbia also showed this type of tight defensive teamwork last year.
Luis Scola is the MVP of the tourney so far, and he had another monster performance vs. Serbia--32 pts on 12-of-19, 7 rebs & 2 blks. You name a way to put the ball in the basket, Luis did it. Luis drilled a couple pick/pop foul line jumpers and finished multiple rolls in traffic. The Prigioni-Scola pick/roll remains the toughest to contain in the tourney.
On the block, we saw a nifty up/under move, lefty hook, righty hook and a scoop shot under Krstic's arm. Luis had a couple of put-backs and hit a running banker in transition that drew a foul. On top of all that, he drew a boatload of fouls as usual (8-for-11 FTA).
The normally gun-shy Pablo Prigioni was somewhat more aggressive looking for his shot today. He connected on three 3PT, including an unlikely off-balance chuck. He drove the ball harder than usual and it resulted in a couple scores. Pablo was masterful setting up his teammates as usual and his quick hands were on display (5 stls). Pablo chipped in 13 pts & 9 assts.
Carlos Delfino hit two 3-pointers early, but his shooting cooled off as the game wore on. Carlos has done a lot things well in the tourney but connecting on jumpers is not one of those (28% on 3PA in five games). But he has brought sound defensive play every game, including today as he had four steals and one terrific block. Delfino finished with 13 pts (5-for-15) & 7 rebs.
The Serbian team defense that propelled them to a silver medal at EuroBasket is still tight this year. Plus, Serbia has opened up its offense this year. They have the goods to medal, but they will have to go through Spain and Turkey to get it.
GROUP C: Russia 73, Greece 69
Russia held off a late rally by Greece to secure 2nd place in Group C and a Round of 16 date with New Zealand. Hard to tell if these teams were going all out. At the time of the game, it looked like Spain was likely to be the 3-seed in Group D. The winner of this game would have had to face Spain in the Round of 16.
Got the sense that both teams were aware what probably awaited them in the next game if they had won. I would have wanted to play France in the Round of 16, too. But this time, Greece's (possible) tanking might have backfired as New Zealand threw a wrench in their plans.
Greece was in a similar situation last year, trying to avoid Spain in the quarters of EuroBasket. Greece got what they wanted, they lost to France and avoided Spain. They were not so lucky this year.
The 1st half of this game was uneventful as neither team did much of note. Very methodical pace to this game and Greece didn't really look to run, something they tend to do. As the game wore on, Greece's defensive effort got progressively worse.
The help defense was non-existent and effort was minimal. Greece has not looked great on the defensive end before this game so its hard to judge if they were playing poorly on purpose. Constantly got burned on backdoor plays, cuts along the baseline, off-ball screens and back screens.
Russia opened up the game in 3rd, outscoring Greece 29-13 in the quarter. Russia was up by 20 points early in the 4th. Then Greece showed another level of intensity in the 4th quarter and decided to make the game interesting.
Timo Mozgov led the Russians with 18 pts on 8-for-12 shooting. Timo brought the usual dunks off of rolls, cuts & put-backs. But Timo added a few new wrinkles with a face-up jumper on a post-up and a lefty hook across the lane. Another impressive play came when Timo iso-ed up high and blew by Big Sofo for a dunk.
Settle down Knicks fans, the hook didn't look that fluid and his post game is still limited in general. Though, the form on his jumper is not bad, shows some promise.
Sofo Schortsiantis had another impressive outing in which his combo of size and nimble feet caused problems. His drop-step is very effective and he used it to great effect a couple times today. He was strong on the off. glass (5) today, which led to a couple of put-backs. Drew fouls constantly as usual on his way to 16 pts (6-for-13) & 9 rebs. We still think Sofo can be a 10-15 mins. reserve big in the NBA. His physical tools would cause problems for the opposition for short stretches.
Russia gets pretty lucky with having to face New Zealand in the Round of 16. While Greece gets the pleasure of facing Spain.
KNOCKOUT ROUND OVERVIEW
Quick look at the playoff picture:
The single-elimination portion of this tourney tips off on Saturday, as we've got two Round of 16 games a day over four days, followed by a couple days of quarterfinals.
Serbia (A1) vs. Croatia (B4)
Spain (D2) vs. Greece (C3)
Boy howdy, what a tough sub-bracket, with what many predicted to be three of the top four teams headed into the tournament. Given the recent history between the two nations, Serbia vs. Croatia should obviously be an extremely intense matchup.
Basketball-wise, Spain vs. Greece has to be the highlight match of the Round of 16. This is a semifinal-level game happening two rounds earlier. Both teams have played below their capabilities, so not sure what we get in this game.
Turkey (C1) vs. France (D4)
Slovenia (B2) vs. Australia (A3)
Turkey has played well in front of the home fans, going undefeated so far. Turkey's zone should give France all types of problems, and we think Turkey will be favored over Slovenia at home in Istanbul in the quarters.
USA (B1) vs. Angola (A4)
Russia (C2) vs. New Zealand (D3)
After looking like they were about to face the winner of Spain-Greece in the quarters, Team USA actually ended up getting the weakest sub-bracket by far.
They should have little difficulty with Angola, and would face the winner of Russia-NZ in the quarters. Russia could provide an interesting test for Team USA as they are stout defensively and will mix up their defenses. But Russia just has no one who can generate easy scoring opportunities.
Lithuania (D1) vs. China (C4)
Argentina (A2) vs. Brazil (B3)
The other highly-anticipated Sweet Sixteen game pits Argentina vs. Brazil in the battle of South America, and the battle of coach Ruben Magnano, who led Argentina to gold in Athens, and now helms Brazil. Magnano knows Argentina's players well, but they know what Rubes likes to do as well.
Losing to Serbia on Thursday worked out OK for Argentina. Even though Lithuania is 5-0, we still think that Spain or Greece would have been a more difficult potential matchup in the quarterfinals.
All in all, we think the bracket shook out for Team USA as well as they could have hoped. The other side has European heavyweights Spain, Serbia, Turkey, Slovenia and Greece, and Team USA will have to only face one of those five. Team USA, Serbia, Spain & Turkey are the top four teams right now in our estimation.
We think Team USA's toughest matchup on their side of the bracket would probably be Brazil once again. Argentina might beat Brazil, but just don't think ARG has the depth to withstand the U.S. Lithuania won its group, but don't think that they are better than the five Euro teams mentioned above.
All things considered, this tourney has a little bit of an NCAA Tournament feel--it's fairly wide-open and unpredictable. Yes, Team USA has to be considered the favorites at this point, but the Brazil game was a reminder that this is not a dominant team a la 2008, and that anything can happen in a one-game scenario. Get your rest on Friday, world basketball fans--big week ahead.